When traumatic brain injury occurs, it triggers inflammation of the nervous system, which can further harm brain health. However, researchers are looking into preventing that inflammatory response by targeting one type of brain cell.
More specifically, they tested a drug that allowed them to block the activity of microglia, a type of nerve cell with a key role in the immune response.
“We used a drug to wipe out cells called microglia in mice that had experienced brain injury, and the inflammation that is a hallmark of traumatic brain injury vanished,” explains lead researcher Kristina Witcher.
As Witcher also adds, right now, there are no approved drugs for treating serious brain injury. The present study aims to bring us closer to achieving better care for brain health.
The researchers’ findings now appear in the journal GLIA.
(T)he scientists do not believe that the drug they used in their mouse study would ever be used to treat brain injury in humans.
That is because while it may stop the microglia from triggering inflammation, it also damages their other functions, which help maintain brain health. After all, the microglia make up approximately 10–15 percent of all brain cells.
“We don’t know the long-term effects of eliminating these immune cells,” warns Godbout, “but we are doing more physiological, biochemical, and behavioral analysis to get to the bottom of that question.”